I arrived in Alabama during the summer of 2011, fresh-faced having started my rookie year in television weather in Anchorage, Alaska in the months prior. One of my first assignments was to conduct interviews at a place called Lake Martin. Lake Martin had been ravaged by an EF-4 tornado on April 27th of that year. It leveled the area, killing several people. I’ll never forget walking on the debris-riddled ground. My work shoes crunched on broken picture frames. I spotted an AOL compact disk partially sticking out of the dirt. The man I was set to interview pointed to where his home was a few days ago, a spot just as barren as any other looking around 360 degrees. He spoke of losing a member of his family, again pointing, this time to where he found the body. My mindset walking into work that day was vastly different than how I walked out. And that was a moment I can unequivocally look back on as life changing. It forced an understanding of a powerful word…perspective.

Perspective is a unique animal. It doesn’t change facts. But it changes the way you perceive and interpret those facts. It promotes deeper analysis of how you look at something, how you interpret it. It’s a valuable tool, even if that perspective presents a scenario that is difficult to think about and discuss.

With perspective in mind, I’d like to offer a take on the Buffalo situation. We’ve lost dozens of lives. Don’t forget the hundreds of immediate family members devastated having lost a love one. Countless other people are missing their friend, co-worker, etc. I can’t help but think back to March 3, 2019. I was part of a team covering another EF-4 tornado that took 23 lives in Beauregard, Alabama. Many of them were children. That event changed all of us. We lost sleep questioning what went wrong. What could we have done to have saved even a few of those lives? What can we do next time to make sure it doesn’t happen again? It’s hard not to feel responsible. You can use that feeling to motivate positive change and improvement. Let it take control, it starts working against you.

I’ve learned you cannot change the past. It’s done, over with. But you can learn from the past in an attempt to motivate change for the future. While it is painful to look back, it is necessary to identify points of possible improvement. And make no mistake, there is ALWAYS room for improvement when an extreme weather event occurs. That can be tornadoes. That can be blizzards.

As the years have gone by, I’ve grown to accept our capability as humans to improve upon the outcome of an extreme situation is finite. There’s a limit, a ceiling if you will. The reality is that there comes a point when Mother Nature becomes so violent, it is inevitable there will be suffering. There are tornadoes so strong that surviving is next to impossible. There are blizzards so intense that no amount of preparation is going to take the death toll down to zero. Shy of us being able to control and manipulate the forecast itself, this is an important element to accept. It is natural to place blame. Sometimes, there is indeed blame to be sourced. No doubt hindsight would alter some decisions in this particular case. It’s a thin line between placing blame and identifying areas of improvement. It’s an even thinner line when you know you’re fighting Mother Nature who is ultimately in control, no matter how proactive we are to manipulate that outcome.

Events like this almost always promote progress. Leaders and officials will be wiser. Residents who went through it will forge their own new perspectives that will no doubt influence how they’ll react and behave the next time something like this happens. And it will happen again. We owe it to the people who are no longer with us to do everything we can to improve upon the outcome of the next one. It is easy to attribute singular blame for the results of this disaster to an individual, a group, etc. From my perspective, it’s never that simple and not always fruitful. Such a mindset assumes too much power & control over a situation that has many elements largely out of our control, no matter how altruistic our intensions. I take comfort in knowing perspective is malleable. Both the city and people of Buffalo will be stronger for having gone through this tragedy. Right or wrong, that’s my two cents (for what it’s worth).

Chief Meteorologist Eric Snitil